A Texas baptist church — labeled an "anti-LGBT hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center — has caused outrage after a pastor said gay people should be "lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head."
Pastor Dillon Awes of Stedfast Baptist Church in Watauga, a suburb of Fort Worth, made the comment and other controversial remarks during a Sunday morning sermon titled "Why We Won’t Shut Up."
"I’m angry this morning because our entire country is celebrating the worse sin in the Bible," Awes said during the sermon referring to Pride Month, which commemorates the LGBTQ+ community every June.
"You know a lot of pastors have this stupid idea where it’s just like, 'oh you know God loves everyone. And God hates the sin but loves the sinner.' But people have taken this to such an extreme where they’re saying celebrate the sin, not just tolerate it, celebrate it," he continued. "Let me show what the Bible says about these people."
Awes read several passages from the Bible and condemned homosexuality as a sin. At one point, he told the congregation that gay people "are dangerous to society" and said that "all homosexuals are pedophiles."
"I’m not saying that every single homosexual that’s alive right now has committed that act with a child already because it could be they haven’t had the opportunity yet and they will at some point later in their life," he said. "This is why we need to put these people to death through the proper channels of the government. ... These people are not normal. They’re not your average everyday sinners. ... They have no hope of salvation."
At certain times during the sermon people from the crowd could be heard cheering in agreement. Awes told the room that he thinks the "solution for the homosexual in 2022" is the death penalty.
"These people should be put to death. Every single homosexual in our country should be charged with a crime. The abomination of homosexuality that they have, they should be convicted in a lawful trial. They should be sentenced with death. They should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head," he said.
Many people on social media criticized the pastor with some labeling his remarks as a violent threat to the community.
"Encouraging the execution of gay persons is not protected speech. Dillon Awes should be considered a domestic terrorist and charged," one Twitter user wrote.
Another said Awes' comment "makes the LGBTQ+ community a huge target" and the pastor "needs to be on FBI watch list."
Other people complained to the Watauga Police Department, prompting it to issue a statement Wednesday. While denouncing "any message that promotes hatred" the department said Awes' comments are protected by free speech.
"First, the Watauga Police Department would like to affirm our commitment to making Watauga a Great Place to Live for all people. The Watauga Police Department values diversity and will continue to protect people’s right to express their identities," the statement read.
"Any message that promotes hatred toward any class or group of people is absolutely counter to the culture of the Watauga Police Department. The language used by the Pastor of the Stedfast Baptist Church is likely to be offensive to many people. However, at this time, the reported language of the sermon appears to be Constitutionally protected free speech. We will continue to monitor this evolving situation."
Awes could not be reached at phone numbers listed for him. The church's main pastor, Jonathan Shelley, defended Awes saying in a lengthy statement that America has weakened "punishments for homosexuality."
"The Bible teaches that God’s laws have not changed on this issue," Shelley said. "We will not let the Devil’s influence in our culture stop us from believing the Bible. Our main purpose is not to preach controversial things but rather get people saved. However, we will preach everything the Bible says."
CORRECTION (June 9, 2022, 3:24 p.m. ET) A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the church. It’s Stedfast Baptist Church, not Steadfast Baptist Church.